Friday, 3 December 2010

Insightful Mergers

I used to be a bona-fide, die hard believer in the premise of our Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Berhad.*

My first car was a white, black-bumpered, Satria 1.3GL before circumstances and bad financial/personal management saw me letting it go and replacing with a Proton Iswara 1.3GL.

As many Proton car owners would probably attest, hassle-free is definitely not something you equate with this particular car maker.

I persisted with a third model, the Gen2, and Proton rewarded my somewhat naïve "loyalty" with a horrendous lemon and after a few years of nervous, hair-pulling moments and much, much, outflow of money for repairs etc, I bid goodbye to the brand.

Never sagain, I promise myself.

By then, I had managed to experience the kind of mouse-squeak, bottle cap-rattle free motoring that should be the right of motorists paying their hard earn money – first a second hand Suzuki Swift, then an Inokom Matrix and a Perodua Viva.

The Swift had an early episode of a clogged up fuel filter during one early morning road trip south, but replacement was cheap at RM25, and then it was all fine and dandy, and now still providing its services to my brother in law, it’s 16-years age notwithstanding.

Yes, I accept that no car maker can assure total reliability, but in my case, two out of three models seemed like a chronic lack of a QC culture prevalent in the national car maker.

Just yesterday, I posted a short advise to another Gen2 owner whose engine temp had risen, much like what I had experienced countless number of occasions with my own before I said goodbye.

What irks me the most (and probably other Proton owners in similar predicament) is the stock standard answers we usually get when sending our cars for repairs, warranties etc: “Biasalah, Proton.”

As if that makes it all blipping all right. A kind of take it or take it proposition.

Just like the current “We want it, and we want it no matter what” attitude in pushing for a merger with Perodua.

Proton probably needs this to happen more than the latter. Reading between the lines of Proton’s man-in-charge statement seemed to point to it haranguing the Government to press its case home.

I have given up on the Proton ideals. So reading statements like “I strongly feel there is room to collaborate. It's not about Proton and Perodua, it's about the Malaysian automotive industry” is so gag-inducing.

The Malaysian automotive industry? Really? In what way? My feeble, non automotive-industry savvy mind can’t see how a merger of Proton and Perodua makes sense vis-à-vis the Malaysian motoring crowd, other than having lesser and lesser choices for the low-mid, mid price ranges.

A merger would mean that some line-up needs to be consolidated. I’m guessing the one doing the pushing for a combo would also be the one deciding which models are delisted.

Examples of overlaps: Saga and Myvi. Savvy (is this still in production? Not I really care) and Viva. Persona/Gen2 and Alza.

(Of course, this is the kind of worse-case scenario, conspiratorial outlook. Guesses. Opinions. Everyone’s entitled to them. This is mine.)

This is not the first time Proton’s man at the helm is pushing for a merger.

Usually I don’t give a hoot about what Proton does or doesn’t do. Not anymore.

Inspira a Lancer ciplak: don’t care. Exora going EV: whatever.

But a merger that might just consolidate the kind of “Biasalah, Proton” take-it-or-take-it attitude?

This I care.

Care that enough care needs to be put into its deliberation. Care that both sides are heard. Care that the interests of the motoring public at large is also considered.

Will they?

PS: Honda Insight at RM98,000: Cheapest Hybrid. My emphasis.

*Blame this on my once-upon-a-time TDM-reverence.

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